Mental illness can be a crippling and consuming presence in a person’s life. Most films tackling the stigma around this issue
do so with little empathy, or make exaggerated assumptions about the implications of living with mental illness.
Therefore, I was hesitant when I walked in to the cinema to watch David O. Russell’s adaptation of Mark Quick’s novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook.
It was the day after the Academy Awards ceremony, and the film’s lead actress Jennifer Lawrence had just won an Oscar for her performance. She is amazing – not only in this film, but in real life, too. Are there any other it-girls who could fall over whilst climbing a set of stairs and still have a laugh about it? No, only J-Law could.
The film follows the bipolar former teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who returns home to live with his parents after a long stay in a mental health facility. He is convinced that his unfaithful wife still loves him (regardless of the restraining order she has against him), and sets out to turn his life around and “find a silver lining” to prove to her that he is still worth it.
This is where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) comes in. She too experiences mental illness and struggled to function when she was widowed at a young age. Together, the unlikely pair embark on a journey to find a light in the darkness inhabiting their lives.
Screen legends Robert De Niro and Australia’s Jackie Weaver are superb as Pat’s supportive and patient parents, and along with Cooper they provide some of the most heartfelt and confronting scenes in the film.
Their constant presence is a reassuring light in Pat’s life, as he comes to terms with what relationships entail and just how important they are. Silver Linings Playbook is not quite a rom-com and not quite a drama, but it finds its own middle ground and owns it.
For a film that deals with the darker side of life, it is almost impossible to walk out of Silver Linings Playbook without feeling a sense of joy and revelation. It is a realistic and at times confronting portrayal of mental illness that doesn’t pity the characters, but rather lets us see their humanity.
A truly rewarding film that deserves all the praise it gets.